Paracanthurus hepatus – Palette Surgeonfish

Paracanthurus hepatus or Palette Surgeonfish are known to the general public as Dory from Finding Nemo and now also Finding Dory. They are not suitable for beginners.

Paracanthurus hepatus – Palette Surgeonfish – Finding Dory

The movie Finding Dory was released in 2016. The film is a sequel to the blockbuster Finding Nemo. Due to the film’s success, sales of the Clown Anemonefish or Amphiprion ocellaris went through the roof. The stores could not keep up with the demand for this variety. Fortunately, Amphiprion ocellaris does not have to be caught in the wild. The fish can be reared fairly easily and in large quantities. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Dory. In the wild, Paracanthurus hepatus or Picasso Surgeonfish is very difficult to breed.

Most specimens that you can find in the shops are therefore wild-caught specimens. To catch these fish, cyanide is often used to catch the fish between the coral. The cyanide stuns the larger fish but kills the corals and smaller animals in a large area around them.

Although Dory seems like a nice toy, it is a fish species that is not easy to keep. We kindly ask you to think very carefully before you buy a fish like the Paracanthurus hepatus. They need a special aquarium of sufficient size, sufficient current, adapted food, etc. Do not be guided by the beautiful images of the film and consider the consequences for the natural habitat of these beautiful fish. Do you still want to see Dory in real life? Most zoos have them swimming around in their aquariums. Have a great day out with the family and just leave the other Dories in their natural environment where they belong!

Paracanthus hepatus – Blue Tang

The Pacific blue or regal tang’s scientific name is Paracanthurus hepatus. This species is the sole member of the genus Paracanthurus. It belongs to the family Acanthuridae. This species can be found from Japan, throughout the Indian Ocean down the east coast of Africa, and south to the Great Barrier Reef. Populations also exist from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands. Tangs are part of a larger grouping of fish commonly referred to as surgeonfish. These species have razor-sharp spurs on their bodies near the base of their tail that will lacerate skin just like a surgeon’s scalpel.


This relatively large fish ranges from 8-12 inches as an adult. Its body is oval in shape, a characteristic common to many tangs. Primary coloration is a beautiful royal blue with a bright yellow triangular marking that begins on the anterior of its body region and extends to the tip of its caudal fin.

The most distinguishing feature of this species is the black patterning on its body. This bold patterning begins below the fish’s eye, loops around the entire length of its back, and then circles back around its mid-body section forming a distinctive blue oval just behind the head. The flow of this patterning combined with the hole in the middle bears a striking resemblance to a painter’s palette. Aside from its two most common names, the Regal Tang is also marketed as the Palette Surgeonfish, Hepatus Tang, Blue Hippo tang, Yellow-Tail Blue Tang, and Yellow-Belly Blue Tang.

The members of this species endemic to the west-central Indian Ocean typically have yellow bellies.

The Aquarium

Pacific Blues are considered a peaceful species. They make wonderful additions to a multi-species tank provided their tank mates are equally docile. This fish is tolerant of other tangs but may demonstrate territorial behavior toward conspecifics (members of its own species). They are rated reef safe. A minimum tank size of 75 gallons is recommended. 100+ is considered ideal.

These fish are easy to maintain and can be kept by novice aquarists. They are, however, more susceptible to fin erosion, lateral line disease, ich, and other skin parasites than many marine species. Maintaining ideal water conditions will help to avoid such complications. Caution is advised when handling these fish or any other surgeonfish. When threatened they will thrash wildly from side to side in hopes of slashing open their would-be predators. They are perfectly capable of inflicting deep wounds that often result in swelling and discoloration and pose a significant risk of infection.

Only the Western Indian Ocean Paracanthurus hepatus variant is Yellow-bellied
Only the Western Indian Ocean Paracanthurus hepatus variant is Yellow-bellied


These are omnivorous creatures. Juveniles feed primarily on zooplankton. Adults lean much more toward herbivore dietary habits. Seaweed and algae provide their main sustenance in life. This species is extremely beneficial in home aquariums. They are excellent at keeping algae in check and will keep your living rock freshly mowed and your corals nice and clean.

In captivity, this fish will eat mysis and vitamin-enriched brine shrimp. They will also nibble at flakes and pellets that may be intended for other members of the community. This is to be expected. Make sure to adequately address their nutritional needs for plant matter. A well-established collection of living rock is mandatory. Fish food formulated for herbivores can be supplemented with dried algae sheets. With proper diet and living conditions, these fish may live up to 20 years of age.

Breeding Paracanthurus hepatus

Most tangs are protogynous hermaphrodites. If two juveniles are introduced into an aquarium together the largest most dominant of the two will transform into a male. A male and female may be successfully housed together. These fish rarely breed in captivity.


This species has a razor-sharp blade at the base of its caudal fin. These retractable scalpel-like prongs are a natural way to defend themselves. They only unfold when the fish is excited or feels threatened. However, they can cause very deep flesh wounds, often leading to infections. The infections are characterized by swelling and discoloration of the wound. This can last for several hours. Due to the infections caused by scalpel wounds, it is suspected that they have venom glands.



Exotic-Aquariums (originel website no longer online)

Copyright images

J. de Lange Iris Nijenboer – IrisFotografie (origine website niet meer online) zsispeo – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Additional information






Acanthurus hepatus, Acanthurus theuthis, Paracanthurus theuthis, Teuthis hepatus

Common name

Blue Surgeonfish, Dory, Palette Surgeonfish

First described by

Carl Linnaeus





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